31 August 2009

apples in august

It may still be August, but there're definitely signs of autumn about. Yesterday morning, having donned both a sweater and coat, I shuffled my way through nascent piles of leaves and chestnuts on my way to the shops:

We even have apples ready for harvesting:

While we used to gather loads from the old (Victorian) orchard tucked away in our development,

we now have some serious competition. This year, a keen bean beat us to it, picking the lower branches clean and hoovering up the windfalls in one fell swoop. We did manage to gather a few,

but only enough for two small batches of applesauce.

So good thing we know Rachel, who has an apple tree so big she actually owns professional picking equipment! After a visit to Rachel today, we have enough apples to make a whole freezer-full of applesauce. Now we're ready for autumn and winter!

30 August 2009

dash to haberdashery

Last week, Rachel and I traveled into London to meet my design-and-sewing guru Amy Butler. Liberty itself was looking fab, with an entire wall swathed in Betsy fabric as part of its Prints Charming exhibition:

As soon as we reached Haberdashery, we spotted Amy, who's just as beautiful in person as she is online and in her books. Here's one from her website, as my own pictures were terribly yellow (which does make you wonder about the lighting in the fabric department):

When I'm nervous, I tend to witter terribly and say the most embarrassing things. But luckily Amy wasn't fazed by comments like 'Wow, you're really tall!'

She's so incredibly friendly and down-to-earth. We had the loveliest long chat, and she signed both my books...

even after my silly (and now infamous) tall comment!

24 August 2009

daylesford day, part three

On Sunday, G and I drove out to Daylesford for our third organic gardening class. I'm now most-definitely determined to add cape gooseberries and borage to our plot:

But the highlight of the day was learning how to transform these...

into these:

After a demonstration by Jez,

we set to work making our own ropes of onions, shallots, and garlic. I was so pleased with my handiwork:

Binding alliums has the restful repetitiveness of knitting, and it gave us a chance to chat with our classmates. One couple was trading their allotment produce for pints at their local pub! And another had just acquired a massive plot on a nearby farm through the Landshare scheme.

In addition to my allium rope, we took away loads of gorgeous seedlings...

and a punnet of heritage tomatoes,

as it was also Daylesford's Heritage Tomato Weekend. A super way to spend a (mostly!) sunny Sunday.

21 August 2009

collins & collins

We've been filling our new green Tubtrug with produce for G's office:

I'm beginning to think we should start our own veg box scheme with our (too) abundant crop of cauliflowers, cabbages, and courgettes.

We could even continue what seems to be a penchant for the letter 'c' by calling our scheme Collins & Collins...though I don't think it has quite the same ring as Abel & Cole!

17 August 2009

most puzzling

I've been puzzling my way through the credit crunch with Springbok's Color of Money jigsaw:

Even amongst 2000 pieces, I found I could locate the teensiest bit of dollar bill or pound note in a tic! Who knew I was so intimately acquainted with Ben Franklin's nose and the Queen's eyebrows?

And there were euros as well:

So many interesting patterns, pictures, and portraits, including this very handsome gentleman, who put me in mind of Mr Darcy:

Wish I could identify the country, because credit crunch or no credit crunch, it could be worth a visit just to use the currency!

09 August 2009

blackberry bliss

While our blackberry plants produce pretty fab fruit, they only produce a few berries at a time: just enough to scatter over cereal or plain ice cream...if you haven't eaten them all in situ!

Thank goodness Rachel's plants are more prolific, and after a morning of picking on her plot, we had enough berries for Blackberry Ice Cream:

Despite owning a shelf-full of ice cream books, I couldn't actually find a recipe for blackberry ice cream. So I used the Raspberry Ice Cream recipe from David Lebovitz' The Perfect Scoop, swapping blackberries for raspberries.

The result was deliciously creamy with a bright flavor and equally brilliant color: more berry bliss!

08 August 2009

blueberry bliss

I've developed something of a blueberry obsession (or could it be an addiction?) this summer.

Our Waitrose has had local, freshly picked blueberries all season: gorgeous and bursting with flavor. So I've been having blueberries on my cereal, blueberries on my yogurt...

And I've even been inspired to give dried blueberries a go, making a batch of Lemon and Blueberry Cookies, using my favorite Slice and Bake Cookie recipe from Australian Women's Weekly:

I adore this recipe, as the resulting cookie is so light and crumbly, and there are so many possible variations and mix-ins.

Unfortunately, the dried berries made the chilled dough nearly impossible to slice. But I just rolled it into balls instead, which I flattened before baking. I suppose I could chop the berries more finely next time, but I do like the flavor hit when biting into a whole one!

It's the perfect cookie to munch while dreaming of blueberry picking in Maine:

Next year's holiday perhaps? Hmmm...

06 August 2009

fernandez & wells

For a bit of refreshment Tuesday afternoon, we stopped by my new favorite London cafe, Fernandez & Wells on Beak Street.

They do fab breakfasts, lunches, and cakes. And their coffee is truly exceptional: dark and strong, just the way I like it.

Unfortunately black coffee doesn't make for a very exciting a picture, so here's G's latte and pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart) from a few mornings back:

And while their cakes and cookies are delicious--Ali insists you try the clementine cake--they do gorgeous sandwiches, too:

Simply the perfect cafe, if you can snag a place at the counter, that is!

05 August 2009

couverture and cloth

Yesterday, I met Monica and Ali at Paddington for our much-anticipated day out in London. We started in Notting Hill with visits to Books for Cooks and Pedlars...

then continued on to Westbourne Grove, where the shops and cars were as lovely as each other!

On our loop back to the Tube station, we discovered Couverture, which carries a spot-on mix of womenswear, toys, home goods, and vintage bits:

Then it was on to The Cloth House, where we oohed and aahed over two floors of the most beautiful linen, shirting, and suiting fabrics:

I'm now feeling inspired to get out my sewing machine...

which, thankfully, is a bit more up-to-date than this one!

But all our finds pale in comparison with the companionship and conversation. I wish we could get together more often.

03 August 2009

portraits and primrose

On Sunday, G and I visited the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I always look forward to the Portrait Award. The quality of the work is consistently outstanding: far better, I think, than that in the Royal Academy's much-feted Summer Exhibition.

A really well-done portrait reveals something of the sitter's character. And nearly all the paintings, in addition to being technically superb, did just that. It was perhaps inevitable I'd fall for a portrait titled Christina...

Christina © Maryam Foroozanfar

and I was particularly moved by this image of the artist Sue Rubira's mother:

Maggie © Sue Rubira

After the exhibition, we stopped by the Primrose Bakery in Covent Garden. It's the teensiest but most charming shop. Oh how I'd love to take those pink-and-white diner chairs home along with my cakes!

After much deliberation, we brought home a lime and coconut cupcake and an earl grey mini:

Very much looking forward to the publication of Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery next month...

Just hoping they've proofread and tested their recipes a bit more thoroughly than another well-known London bakery did--ahem!

02 August 2009

a comely cauliflower

This weekend, we harvested our first-ever cauliflower:

Our allotment neighbor congratulated us on our success, but I think it was mostly luck. Especially as I don't see any more heads forming...

But whatever happens with the rest, this one made a delicious cauliflower cheese!